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Firechick's Game Reviews: Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal



I give these classic Pokemon games...a 73/100!

When the first Pokemon games, Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow, became so popular that they practically dominated the world, GameFreak, hot off their success, decided to make a sequel. It took a lot of years, a lot of coding, sorting through messed up programming, a delay, some assistance from the late Satoru Iwata, and a decision to release it for the GameBoy Color. But afterward, Pokemon Gold and Silver sold even more copies than the first generation of games, selling like hotcakes and going on to be considered the absolute best Pokemon games ever. When I was younger, my sister and I received Gold and Silver for Christmas. I got Silver and she got Gold, but I would up inheriting her games and blue GameBoy Color when she was no longer interested in Pokemon. These particular games, along with Ruby and Sapphire, really got me to dip my toe into playing video games, especially the mainline Pokemon games, and helped me to really understand how video games were supposed to work. But how exactly do they hold up today? Well, as you can tell by the rating, not too great.

Gold, Silver, and Crystal take place three years after Red, Blue, and Yellow. You play as a young trainer who goes on a journey through the Johto region, catching Pokemon, battling trainers, and challenging the gyms. But in doing so, you have to deal with a rude, cruel, red haired trainer who steals a Pokemon from the lab and abuses said Pokemon, and Team Rocket, the gang of thieves from the previous games who are trying to make a comeback. At the time these games were released, they introduced a lot of new ideas and innovations that continue to live on in the franchise to this day: A day/night cycle, the ability to breed Pokemon, giving Pokemon items, berries, shiny colorations, genders for Pokemon (Though some remain genderless), two new types (Dark and steel, which no new types created until X and Y introduced the fairy type), and the ability to battle trainers you previously battled. Nowadays, these features are nothing new, but back in 1999, they were new and really innovative, which added a whole new layer of creativity and flavor to the world of Pokemon as kids knew it. All of these new features helped to extend the game's replay value and add to the gameplay, and there's a variety of ways you can compose your team and make use of the new elements. It helps that the story is longer and isn't as barebones as Red and Blue were, so you could invest more time in it than you could before.

It also helps that with the GameBoy Color being more versatile than the original GameBoy, the graphics are much improved from Red, Blue, and Yellow. The former two could only work with one color scheme, gray, and Yellow added a variety of colors, but whenever one went to a new location, everything would just be one color and nothing else (Cerulean City was blue, Celadon was green, Cinnabar Island was red, so on and so forth). Gold and Silver manages to finally rectify this problem by integrating color into everything. The grass is green, streets and roads are white and brown, water is blue, Pokemon have more than one or two colors in their designs, the cities all have their own distinct look and color palette. Plus, Crystal later introduced choosing between playing as a male or female character and sprite animations, and Gold and Silver couldn't do that before due to technical limitations, so many people really appreciated these new addtions.

But just because Gold, Silver, and Crystal are good in the graphics, gameplay, and new additions department doesn't mean it's free of flaws. For one, while many of the new Johto Pokemon were great and had neat designs, others were straight up completely useless, such as Dunsparce, Wobbuffet, and Stantler. Others question the creation of baby Pokemon, who could be hatched if you bred two Pokemon you could already catch, so there isn't much of a point to having new Pokemon if you could already catch their evolved forms early on. There's also the game's infamous difficulty curves and level curves. Early on, you have to deal with really tough bosses with strong Pokemon (Whitney's Miltank anyone?), and if you don't know what to do, they can stomp all over you. But after the fourth gym, not only are some of the gyms really easy, the game still has you fighting trainers and Pokemon with levels in the 30s, not enough to help you grind your team to get them to the high 40s and level 50, which is how high level the Elite Four and Champion's Pokemon are. This results in needing to do a lot of tedious level grinding, and good luck if you get new members of your party late in the game. This problem persists even when you go to the Kanto region in the post game, because the wild Pokemon are still laughably weak, making training continue to be tedious, and the trainers in that region still have Pokemon that are in the 30s in terms of levels. And don't even get me started on Red, who you can encounter if you get all 16 badges, whose team is in the high 80s.

So yeah, the game has very little balance when it comes to its difficulty, and can outright cripple you when you really need to get stronger. Furthermore, it's post-game was rather lacking. It introduced being able to go back to the Kanto region and traveling between the two, which was great, but you didn't have a whole lot to do in Kanto other than battle the gym leaders, fix the magnet train, and battle Red. The eventual remakes that came out years later would rectify all of these issues and then some, but I'm not talking about the remakes here. Plus, Crystal, the third version, added some new features, but not enough to really allow it to stand on its own. The 3DS Virtual Console version of Crystal does make it so that you can catch the rare Pokemon Celebi after you beat the League, which nobody could do before because it was exclusive to an online event that was only in Japan, so many people really appreciated this gesture for sure. But there's really no denying that these games are very much a product of their time. Not because they're bad, but because later games would continue to use and improve upon all the features that it introduced here, so like with Red and Blue, you can say these games gave a more polished blueprint for the franchise to utilize later on. Besides, without Gold and Silver, it's possible the franchise would have died right then and there, had it not been successful.

They're not perfect games by any stretch due to the passage of time, but they're still a fun little romp for if you want to just kick back, relax, and indulge in some good ol' nostalgia.
Tags: crystal, game, gold, pokemon, review, silver
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